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really surprised. >> reporter: pope benedict had been looking frail recently, using a moveable platform during services, so he wouldn't have to walk. relying on a cane. the pope wants more rest, said his 89-year-old brother in germany. he said his brother has been thinking about stepping down for months. and had been advised by his doctors not to take anymore long, international flights, such as a planned trip to brazil in july. the pope's decision is unprecedented in modern times. the last similar case was pope celestine v, who had praise for pope benedict today. >> he has given church the last great service he will give the church. he's stepping off the stage when he feels he can't exercise the office of peter. >> reporter: benedict seemed to many a reluctant pope, as cardinal ratzinger under john paul ii, he was known as a conservative guardian of church doctrine, opposing women priests, abortion and homosexuality. as pope, he inherited the church's biggest scandal in decades. revelations that priests had sexually abused children. he met with victims and apologized. >> for all, i exp
>>> on our broadcast tonight, stepping down. the stunning news from the vatican, pope benedict announces he is resigning. the first to step aside in more than 700 years. as 1 billion catholics are left wondering why, what it means for the church, and who might replace him. >>> the fugitive. the ex cop terrorizing southern california. families of 50 fellow officers are being protected around the clock. a reward now up to $1 million. >>> the big digs, people snowed under and waiting for help. plus a direct hit from a tornado in the south. >>> and a genuine american hero. the incredible story how he saved so many lives, fighting back tears today as he received this nation's highest award for military valor. "nightly news" begins now. >>> from nbc news world headquarters in new york, this is "nbc nightly news" with brian williams. >>> good evening. it came out of nowhere. and it stunned the over 1 billion catholics around the world when the pope announced early this morning, our time, he is stepping down, abdicating. this hasn't happened in seven centuries. pope benedict has served
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